I see that question dancing around the shine of your cinnamon eyes… I’m not going to be that guy stormin’ in, lookin’ to set them on fire. At least not today, not a hint of ill-advised fury. Tiny embers spark…
It’s a battle, this world, and when you need to enlist in the militia you’re often left, like something neglected in the rain. When you want to let your lighthouse caress nothing but the waves I’m the armada surging into your harbor, lost ships escaping a wanton sea. A trifle invasion…
At the risk of proving I’m a reckless optimist, can I just say that no matter what, you never need feel alone?
I’m down for the laughs, I’m up for the fight, I’ve got the engine to get us to the heart of a fantasy, Hell, we could become one with the sun from now until twilight. But if all you need is a wall to rest your weary back A sword and shield in your hand or on your heart Then that’s all I’ll be That guy, today and tomorrow Anytime and always.
Still though, I hear you, it’s all a little heavy, The sunshine of the heavens with the winds of a high-pressure system. Just remember we’re all going to get a little wet in the rays. Drowned in life.
There’s not a word or phrase in this whole world that can make this make sense Yet the clarity of the situation seems like the world’s easiest riddle. Who is always there, but a shadow only visible in the dark? A “bright night”, you say?…
You’re here for whatever, I’ve got however much of it you need You’ve got the power to race the rusty machine within My car’s out back if you’re ready to take that ride. But if all you need is a lift, a quick pick-me-up A guide with a map, to get you out of the blistering sun Then that’s all I’ll be That friend, today and tomorrow Anytime and always.
As the confusion rained down, all he knew was that when she grabbed him by the hand, he had access to see stars in galaxies undiscovered.
“You know you’re going to love this,” Alexa said, dragging Billy through the busy streets toward the Ritz Carlton.
“I know you don’t really know me, but now I’m worried that you’re blind too. I really don’t think I’m dressed for this fancy an establishment. And I’m really sorry about making that seeing-eye-dog joke before,” Billy said.
“It’s only as fancy as you make it, Sunshine, come on!”
The entirety of their relationship, all of 47 mins and 15 seconds of it, had been equally as haphazard. Billy Wylde, 17 and Alexa Somethingorother, ??, hadn’t intended on running around the streets of Modesto that mild November day. But now that the hurricane was upon them, the pair made the most of it, riding out the storm.
“Garcon!” Alexa shouted as she pulled up to the swanky hotel bar.
“You know his name?” Billy questioned Billwylderly.
“Hush. We’re extravagant French bankers. Rekindling a long lost love from a convention in Geneva. Go with it.”
“How do you say, “you’re completely insane, but I think I love you in French? Or Genevish for that matter?”
“Vous n'avez pas encore vu quelque chose comme moi.”
With a permanent sneer, the bartender slowly made his way over to the pair, looking them up and down the entire way.
“I assume there’s something I can assist you with,” he said.
“WE’RE FRENCH!” Billy said, gesticulating like a drunken windmill.
“Bankers. The finest of the fine, Jeeves. Now how about a Bloody Sunday, and a white whine spritzer for my old colleague here. We were just discussing Genenva in Spring time.”
“Geneva!” Billy yelled, the windmill now more of a lawn mower.
“Delightful,” the bartender muttered before going to procure two cherry sodas.
Alexa took Billy’s scraggily hand into hers and raised it to the nape of her neck.
“Feel that? Right there? That’s where I’m going to want you to grab me when we start making out in the hotel room,” she whispered.
“If you think we can afford a place here, I think we must have robbed the bank we work for,” he said. “Wait…we’re going to be making out?”
The girl was like a Cracker Jack box with all surprises and no candy. She’d quite literally run directly into the young ne'er-do-well while evading the police.
“Help. I’m wanted. Do you know the way to Mexico?” she pleaded.
“Well, you’ll have to go through my heart first,” Billy immediately thought.
“Blackcats playing bingo,” is what he actually said.
That was 52 minutes and 11 seconds ago.
“I want to kiss you vigorously in room 237, just like at the convention,” she told him, dragging him away from the bar.
“I think it might have been in room 119, but then again, I might just be confused because it never happened,” Billy said.
The duo snaked their way through the halls of the five-star resort, both looking like a modest one-and-a-half star couple. Alexa bribed a nearby maid to gain access to the room.
“You’re like a wizard,” Billy told her. “But Gandalf would be super jealous if he saw your tits.”
“Gandalf has seen my tits Billy. Why do you think he vanishes to much in the book?”
“Wow. I already had a hobbit in my pants. But after that, well, I’ve got…well, one-and-a-half hobbits. Like a Samwise with Gollem on his shoulders.”
“That’s the hottest thing you’ve ever said, isn’t it Billy.”
Alexa laid her lips on Billy’s neck, he was a little shy, it’d been about the entire length of his existence since a woman and been near him. All six-foot-whatever of the gangly teenager whithered like a rose in a storm and the brazen beauty pulled in close. “I got you, Sunshine,” she said.
“You may have me, but who’s got you?”
Billy pressed his lips to hers, right after missing and slightly biting her chin. He put his hand on the nape of her neck, as requested, but it was her who had to guide him to really handle her the way she wanted.
Alexa was the captain of the vessel that set Billy sail on an ocean he’d never seen before. His life was a desert until she showed up to flood his lands.
The sex was awkward, almost a struggle to start, maintain, and finish. In fact, his charismatic dance partner actually fell off the bed.
“That looks like something I would do,” he said.
“See, only gravity will come between us Billy.”
It was actually the police that came between them. As they were both handcuffed, and placed into separate cars, it was Billy who was full of charm:
The personality test asked if “Laughing was the most important” function of life. I strongly agreed. Now it may not be entirely true. I need to breathe. If I can’t breathe, I can’t laugh. But still, I strongly agreed.
I find that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you hand complete power over to the rest of the world to laugh at you instead. Take, for instance, the time I was watching a history documentary, where the narrator said, “Jefferson intended to have the Declaration of Independence finished on July 2nd, but was delayed two days.”
“How convenient,” I thought. “That let if fall on Independence Day.”
So I can laugh at myself, sure.
An embarrassing life experience can easily be forged into an incredible story that can make pretty girls laugh. And recall, laughing is one of the top two most important functions of life. I like my girls to be able to breathe too, but then, I know that I’m picky.
Every single thing I have set out to do today has backfired gloriously. Gym>>Haircut>>Pack up the old house>>Starbucks>>Homework>>Shower>>Party. That was the plan. My gym flooded, inconvenient when you wore sneakers instead of flippers. The haircut looks decent enough, long enough to be pulled, but short enough to acknowledge that nature likes to laugh at you by taking one of your features away. Problem was, my debit card didn’t work. That wasn’t embarrassing in the least. A trip through traffic to the bank to find out that everything was “fine” only to find out things weren’t actually “fine” and I had to return to the bank to let them know I was so thankful for their comedic string of clerical errors.
The panic attack set in around that time, a side effect of my best laid plans revolting. And here I sit at Starbucks…
Because none of the rest of that shit is getting done. And that’s hysterical.
What else am I going to do but laugh? Sure I could get pissed and bitter, but that’s only going to mess me up going forward, and I’d rather all my future plans fail of their own accord, not my own.
There’s a reason the rain hurts when you’re walking directly into the storm; you’re literally pushing against it. That’s life. You knew you had to walk across the busy parking lot to argue with the fools in the bank. You had no idea the sky would open up and seem to target only you. Gotta go through it! That debit card’s not going to be “fine” all on its own. So you use your naked face to give that storm the what-for.
We go on because we have to, if we want to live. If we want to laugh. If we want to breathe.
But I suppose it’s time to tell the world I’m gay; bi-sexual anyway. I honestly don’t know if one encompasses the other, or they’re separate. Please be patient with me. Women will likely always be my preference, but I don’t subscribe to worldviews as simple as black and white, gay or straight. I mean, come on, there are certainly some damn handsome gentlemen out there. Life is fluid; so am I, as I am life, it breathes within me.
I feel like I need to be writing this. In fact, as I sort my troubled mind out, I’ll likely revise this, update, and add to it, maybe burn it in a trash fire. My mind and heart are in such a stake of ecstatic flux, I don’t think I could point out a single star to wish upon, even if they were all falling from the sky directly into my eyes.
And that’s saying something since I’m such a reckless dreamer.
Why am I telling you all of this? Why IN THE HELL is it my first post for LJ Idol? Simply put, I feel like I need to say this, I need to say it for YOU...
See, I've been getting A LOT of questions. Well, one really, but it's repeated ad nauseum:
"Are you gay?"
I'm mean, I've heard it a lot in thirty some years, trust me. And I've never really gotten used to it. Not because being gay would be a bad thing, but it just felt like people couldn't just accept that I am me, Brian is I. And if you hang out with me for 47 seconds, and are paying attention, you'll find it's quite difficult to store me away in but one simple box. I'm all over the place. I like musicals. I like UFC. I like country, I like Beyonce. Do you know how many categories or genres I just checked off in those few statements? Plenty. But the thing is, I'm checking them off all at once. And sometimes never! I'm like the wind, sometimes I'm chill, sometimes I blow the fuck out of town.
With my recent return to society from a four-year romance with a hellish depression, and my return to theater, the question is chasing me pretty fervently again.
"You watch Rupaul's Drag Race. You must be gay." "You're pretty comfortable with your emotions. I bet you're gay." "If you like musicals like Wicked, you're def. gay. And if you're not, I'll get you there."
These paraphrased quotes are just from the last few weeks. It kind of breaks my heart. Can't I be complex enough to A) not fit a single label, and B) just be me? If you already like me, appreciate me, why do I have to be qualified with ANY labels?
The answer is simple: for me? I don't.
For others? If you need it? Fine, here's where I stand today:
I love women. Like INCREDIBLY.SO.MUCH.LIKE.YOU.HAVE.NO.IDEA. Likely always will too, but, you know fluidity and all.
I've never been with a man, nor engaged in sexual congress with a man. I've never even wanted to. Are there boys that take my breath away? Ones I can't help but (attempt to) talk to when we're working together? Oh, yes there are. And I certainly don't mind the attention I get in return, but this is just where I’m at today.
I've been doing my research as I've been searching for my identity. There's a subsection of bi-sexual that seems to fit, it's "Heteroromantic bisexual". I could be totally wrong, who knows. And that's the thing, I'm always going to be learning and growing, and blowing like the unchainable wind that I am. I'm cool with that. When I was seventeen I dealt with a lot of bullying for being gay. The really hard part was that I fit their "requirements" to be gay-bashed, but not the actual definition of being gay. I felt guilty two times over! There was something wrong with me AND I didn't even qualify for the label. I've hated that for years. I decided then that my mantra would be this:
I'm going to do what I want, when I want to do it.
That was more than a few years ago, and today, I'm sticking with it. It's my mantra, and it's for me. I'm perfectly comfortable being whoever the hell I want to be today. But if you're not comfortable with that (and hey, that’s ON YOU), I thought I'd give you a box to put me in. Just know one thing. When you come back to find me in that box, I'll likely have blown away.
“Look, I know it’s not much, but we all can’t have Versailles, right?”
“Right, no, obviously not. But, Wallace, do you feel safe out here?”
“Listen, Ms. Loretta, no one chooses to be homeless; that don’t happen. But sometimes, things choose you, ya know? It sucks, but clearly I’ve got something figured out, otherwise you wouldn’t be interviewing me for your fancy magazine. Turn around, would ya? Put your hand on that brick wall, there.”
“Now, it feels kind of coarse, right? That’s fine. But what does it say to you?”
“What does it say?”
“It’s tellin’ ya, ‘Hey, I’m may not be comfy, but I’m not going anywhere’. See what I’m saying?”
“Even though it’s not comforting, it’s sturdy.”
“You got it. You feel that sun on your face? That’s a warmth you’re not gonna find inside any window in this fine city. I don’t care how fancy a place you got. Close your eyes, put your head back, and tell me you feel unsafe, just sitting here.”
“Well, it is a beautiful day, but—“
“And what more do you need?”
“Maybe a roof, but then again, I might just be really picky. So you told me when we met that you haven’t always been homeless; I’d love to hear about the five years when you were married. Can you tell me a little about that?”
“Oh, Sugar? Of course I can tell you about Sugar. That’s what I called her, anyway. I’m the only one who can call her that, ya know? Look, can you imagine the most faithful, honest, intelligent person there is? That’s Sugar.”
“And you were homeless when you met?”
“Yeah, yeah. True. I was tryin’ something, ya know? I wanted out, and she was going to help me. And she did. She’s incredible.”
“So where did you meet Sugar?”
“Hey! Didn’t I say no one could call her Sugar? Nah, it’s okay. I’m just messin’. But don’t tell her I said it’s okay, ya know? Like I said, I wanted to live a different life. I made the choice, like I said, you can’t always decide your choices, but sometimes you can follow different breezes. I wanted to live better. So, I’d help people with directions – I really know the neighborhood, ya know? Sometimes I’d clean up people’s trash that the kids or animals had gotten into. I was a good neighbor. A neighbor who lived in a box, but a good neighbor still.”
“And you helped her out?”
“I did, yeah.”
“How did you help her? And how did your relationship blossom from there?”
“She’d order stuff, packages and boxes, but the mail guy – oh, don’t get me started on him -- that guy’d just throw the boxes all over the place. And they’d just sit there. They’d be real close to where I’d sleep, ya know? She’d never come and get ‘em. Now I’m not no criminal, so I wasn’t gonna keep ‘em, but I figured out that she was too afraid to come lookin’ for the stuff. And so, I took them to her.”
“How did that go?”
“Oh, it was perfect. She’s a gem. A true gem on the finger of a Rockefeller. You know the smell of lilac? Every day. I don’t care what shape she was in, if she was coming, you’d smell nothing but lilac. We ain’t got nothing like that here, but you kind of get used to this smell of sewer and rainwater.”
“Tell me more about when you met Sugar.”
“Well she thought me saving those packages for her was nice. And she brought me in for a cup of coffee. I haven’t had a cup that good since the Carter administration. And so, I married her.”
“Wait, now hold on. I feel like there’s quite a bit of information you just left out.”
“Yeah, true, but it’s my story (chortles). And I’m no Shakespeare, what can I say? She was nice, and she fixed me up for a bit. I got a good job, and she let me stay in her spare room. She helped me find my way. Look, I imagine it’s pretty hard not fallin’ in love with me (laughs).”
“Well, I’m not one to argue. Did it just not work out? Were you incompatible?”
“No, things were great. Sugar sees the good in everybody, even me. And she brought more good outta me. We were good for one another, I can’t lie to ya. I was truly happy.”
“So what happened Wallace?”
“Remember a bit ago when you asked me if I felt safe? Well, I do. But back then, I didn’t. Being respectable was nice. Having a house was nice. And a wife? Who am I kidding, that was fantastic! But there were nights, when the wind was real rough, ya know, and the house would shake – like when a storm comes. Man puts a lot of work and money and stuff into these big houses, and they still sway in a hurricane. What does that tell you? Because I sure didn’t know. Why would somebody hide in all of that? Who are they tryin’ to fool? I wasn’t foolin’ nobody. Not even me.”
“And that’s when you left? You left your wife to come and live on the street again?”
“No. Like I said. We don’t get to make all our own choices. This is the life for me, out here, with nothing between me and the sky. See, I’m not trying to fool it. I’m right out here in the open. Am I afraid? Hell yes, I’m afraid. But I’m real too, and that’s alright by me.”
“You’re out in the open.”
“Exactly. And anybody who’s livin’ like that ain’t the most important thing, ain’t livin’ at all.”
“Finally, Wallace, what would you want Sugar to know if she reads this?”
“Wow. Well, tell her that I love her. This isn’t her fault, she should know that. But if she doesn’t, I hope she’ll believe me. You know what? Tell her to think of me every time it rains. Tell her that I may be wet, but me and the sky? Tell her we’ve got it figured out, and I’m alright.”
For LJ Idol, Week 17, "Cardboard". Added additional challenge of writing with only dialogue, no exposition or dialogue tags. Con Crit would be excellent!
The phantom wound reopens any time I hear the word, the invisible blade forever pierces.
I suppose any “bundle of sticks” can be a weapon, if armed correctly.
The sulfur in the air was palpable, just after that jagged word fell from my aunt’s lips. One attends family get-togethers every major holiday, just knowing that, even at its best, the festivities will likely require an emotional triage unit. Perhaps that’s why a modest elixir of stiff drinks is often present.
“I mean, he always was kind of a faggot,” my Aunt Leona said.
Such an innocuous a sentence it was, darting out of her cavernous mouth, like a bat chasing glory. There were no gasps, no startled looks to be found. Here was a simple conversation where my family exchanged evidence in a trial of public decency. Each wanted to prove that they always knew that a recently outed friend was gay. In retrospect, such language should be expected when you’re at a party attended by a collection of horrible Facebook statuses wearing their Sunday best.
“I wonder, darling, what these people would think of you if you weren’t related? Hell, I wonder what they think of you behind your back, now,” Bill said.
My fingernails clawed track marks into the rubber tablecloth as the voice inside of my head took a moment to reload. The day that it hit me that he was separate from me, a venomous poison trapped inside of my mind, I decided to name him Bill. I figured a simple name might take the romance out of his villainy.
“Do you think they’d be like the others? Do you think that nasty word would be hurled at you again? Do you think your own family would do that?” he continued.
The trembling was the very first warning sign; soon after, the sweat collecting on the scorched earth of my forehead was the next; panic attacks aren’t known for their subtlety. As my defense system drained, my two barren eyes locked on to my aunt, still regaling her homophobic wisdom. At the very least, I didn’t want to appear as though I was being pillaged by a demon from the inside out.
“It’s not working. They all know that homos panic when they’re cornered.”
The storm took full effect inside of my head, and each drop of rain brought a selected memory to drown the foundations of my strength.
“Remember that time the bully cornered you in the locker room? Or how about when you decided to be in that play? Ooh, or very recently when that orangutan in a flannel shirt mocked you in front of your wife? It’s really a shame you’re not gay, what, with all of the abuse you’ve taken for appearing so.”
The floodwaters began washing away every recognizable pillar of reality within my own thoughts. Houses that contained coping mechanisms were swept away in the onslaught. Traffic lights that kept order through reason, were torn from their bearings and danced downstream. As the waters continued to rise, the distance between the bulbous clouds of anxiety, and the defeating sea of pain drew closer together.
“Perhaps if you were a real man, you could actually provide for your wife. But, if you’re not going to stand up for yourself in front of her, I can’t imagine you’d ever--“
“Well that sounds simple enough, but no.”
You’re not real. You’re just the sum of my fears, and all of doubts, played back like a haunted chorus. And I’ve had enough.
“Ooh, I do have a song for you. Say, what rhymes with ‘ad infinitum’?”
I think I am worthy. I’m mean, I’m a good person, right? But you, you’re nothing. Do you know how many people have evil voices inside their heads?
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing you that you’re not an idiot.”
The ice cubes assaulted the inside of the glass with chilly triumph. The rum and the Coke came together in such harmony, that concoction began to immediately calm my mental oceans.
“And just what do you think you’re doing?”
You’re not the only one with weapons.
As the revelry dragged on, the drinks gave way to a lone voice in my head; a voice with answers far beyond its own understanding.
You’re the one who’s worthless, Bill. You’re just a voice. See? I can shut you up. Words hurt, don’t they? You wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for me. You’re a part of me. Me. A part of…yeah, you’re all quiet now. Don’t act like I’m the monster. I’m not the monster. I’m not. It’s not like the monster is me. No. I’m the monster.
“Look at this lightweight,” my aunt said as I dropped my empty glass to shatter on the floor. “It’s always the quiet ones, am I right?”
I don’t really think that life ought to be fair, really. I just think it should be a little fairer. That’s probably not even a word, but today wasn’t a school day, so I don’t even care.
Well, at least it wasn’t a school day for me.
I didn’t go, and didn’t plan on ever going again, if I’m being honest. I planned on running away and joining real life. I figured I’d just get to it.
“And where might we be heading?” Uncle August said. All of my mother, May’s brothers and sisters were named after calendar months. There were only four siblings in total, which mom says is good before they ended up with a brother, November.
“Off to the real life, Uncle August,” I said with a spit. Time to find me a real job. “Little boy” is just not paying the rent.
Uncle August had pulled up alongside me on the sidewalk in his pick-up. He used to let me drive it when he had to go to town, but I knew I was just sitting on his lap. I know things.
“Oh, phew. Here I thought you might be running away. ‘Bout time you made something of yourself, A-Bomb.”
Mom always told him not to call me that, but he never listened.
“I appreciate your support Uncle, maybe we can go out for steak when I get my first paycheck.”
“Sounds like a plan. Say, why don’t you hop in, and I’ll take you down to fill out your application. You’re going to drum up quite the sweat, carrying that suitcase and all.”
Uncle August always has a way of making sense, so I got in the truck so we could head off on my first adult adventure.
“Hey, remind me, do they often hire 9-year-olds in town?” he asked.
“They’re just going to have to understand,” I said, “I’m through with being a kid.”
“Fair enough. Well, I don’t know if you’re mom would approve of you being in a bar, but I’m running late for work, and I think we have a “barstool shiner” position open. “
I know it sounds glamorous, but bar life can be kind of gritty. Uncle August had me wipe down all the chairs in the place and then fed me Cokes and peanuts until the pizza place opened up.
“I had a pretty rough time in school,” he said as pizza cheese dripped out of his mouth.
“Yeah, it’s not an easy life,” I said. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But my worst enemy is Bryce Jordan, and he goes to my school. So I guess he’s already living that life. He’s a bag of buttholes.”
“You can say, “assholes” now. You’re an adult.”
“Right. He’s a bag of assbuttholes.”
“There you go.”
“He told me I wasn’t good enough to be in the smart class. Can you believe that? Sure, I didn’t do so well, but I deserve to be there. It’s not fair.
“Well, life’s not always—“
“He doesn’t know what I had to go through this past year. I was a Spice Pirate.”
“Oh…yeah. That’s, um, a detail that’s pretty hard to ignore. Wow. Spice Pirates, huh? Not Space Pirates?”
“No, Spice Pirates. Space Pirates don’t make any sense.”
“But, Spice Pirates?”
“Yeah, like garlic and salt. Have you ever tried mom’s spaghetti without spices? Ick.”
“There was a while there where mom wasn’t using much spice in our dinners. And so I went out and joined the Spice Pirates. They didn’t know I was working undercover, I was really there to steal the booty.”
“A fair plan.”
“I was out on the Spicy Seas for over 8 months, fighting megalodons, and taking paprika out of pelican’s mouths. How was I supposed to be studying for social studies? I was saving our family!”
“Really, it’s not that you’re not good enough, you’re actual a hero in this story.”
“Yes. Bryce Jordan never dropkicked a walrus, but I did.”
Once the pizza was gone, and Uncle August called a cab for the drunk guy at the end of the bar that I wasn’t to go near unless there was an emergency, and he was the only human, no, “the only sentient being left on the planet”, my Uncle told me his story.
“I had a run in with pirates when I was in school too. Mine were Space Pirates—“
“Ugh, that doesn’t make sense.”
“…and we flew around space, fighting crime and saving girls. I had a Bryce Jordan too, but his name was Bill. Cruel little bastard. I wish I could have dropkicked Bill, like you did that walrus, but by that point I figured out that life wasn’t fair. Unfortunately, happiness isn’t guaranteed.”
“But I don’t want guaranteed happiness. I just want a chance at it. Other kids don’t recognize my pirate patches, but I earned them. And mom always tells me to treat them like I want to be treated. Doesn’t work.”
“You can’t change them A-Bomb, believe me, I’ve tried. You can only make yourself a better Spice Pirate. Be the Spice Pirate Captain. They might never come around, but, hey, you’re still collecting all of the spices. And one day, they’re going to want red pepper flakes on their pizza. When that day comes, they’ll either treat you with respect—“
“Or I put the peppers straight up their assbuttholes.”
“Yeah, or that.”
I finished the rest of my shift with Uncle August and then asked him to take me home. School may be the worst, but the cafeteria food is better than peanuts.
“Uncle, I think today’s my last day. It’s a good life that you have here, but I have seas to sail.”
“Yeah, I figured as much. You’re mom’s waiting for you at home. I think she said something about spaghetti for dinner.”
“Oh yeah? Well that’s good, because this pirate is good enough to save our boring dinner.”
“Right on. Just don’t tell your mom that. And don’t call her an, “assbutthole”. Save that one for the bar.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, Uncle August. I may be a pirate, but I’ve got standards.”
Carrie’s high heels slammed into the imitation marble with each step, an unrelenting cycle of gunshots. She took her place at the bar, a semicircle broken up only by empty stools that seemed to whisper regrets.
“I really should have some kind of fancy pick-up line ready for moments like this,” the man said, “but a lady as pretty as you would likely derail even a good man’s plans.”
“Well, I’m grateful that you didn’t plan that clever line. I would hate to have to judge you even more harshly than you’ve already forced me to,” Carrie said.
“Kelly Saint-Marie, lousy flirter, at your service, madam. You’ll have to forgive me. I didn’t come here to do much talking.”
“Mr. Saint-Marie, you are hereby forgiven. I am in fact here to meet someone, and my manners must have been saved up exclusively for him. I apologize if I was harshly received.”
Carrie kicked the adjacent barstool out for him and gestured for him to join her.
“Carrie Stewart, of the Mr. and Mrs. Stewarts, the shouldn’t be in seedy motels Stewarts, and the what in the hell have I gotten myself into—“
“Do you think he knows, your old man?”
“No. And I wish he did. Perhaps then he’d tarnish his perfect reputation and validate my apathy. Then, and only then, might this remorse seem worth it. Do you know the bartender? Do we need to seek his forgiveness to get a drink?”
“Hey, bartender. We got a couple of sad sorts down here at the end. A pair of whiskeys, would ya?”
“And by whiskey, my dashing friend means cognac. Doubles.”
The bartender snarled and produced their drink order, annoyed that his routine was interrupted. Kelly dug into his leather jacket’s pockets to offer the stranger a cigarette, but when he grabbed the knife blade instead, he tore his hand back out like smoke escaping the flame.
“My mother would have told you years ago that I’d end up doing this sort of thing. Isn’t it strange that we chase happiness that can only possibly lead to heartache? It’s like the sad-old-tale of a dog chasing his own tail,” she said.
Kelly slid his glass back toward the bartender for another round.
“Sometimes you get caught up in a circle. A vicious, hateful circle. I never thought I’d—“
“But you did, didn’t you?” Carrie asked. “It just worked out that you had to do whatever it is you had to do, and you did it. I understand that, better than anyone.”
The bartender poured the pair another round and diligently returned to his routine.
“I won’t pretend that the decision wasn’t mine,” Kelly said, “but it still feels like you’ve got no option but to let someone else pull your strings. It’s like a yo-yo. What’s the sense in trying to be a saint when your day-to-day is nothing more than an invisible prison?”
“That’s pretty poetic for the second round at a bar with a crack in its mirrored-ceiling,” Carrie said. “This place is so incredibly dated. You should have seen the bedspread that maintenance was dragging out of here. It’s like this place is the last stop on the way to Hell. I wonder which is worse.”
Kelly pushed his glass toward the edge of the bar again, only this time the liquor hadn’t been pressed to his lips. He turned to face the unending darkness of the lobby, the blood stains on his jeans no longer hidden.
“Oh, I’d be willing to bet on that,” he said.
“That’s all right, at this point I’ve got nothing left to lose, and don’t want to get any closer to the flames than this little dance I’m going around in.”
“You believe in that kind of stuff? Heaven and Hell? What do you make of a sinner’s chances in the end?”
“What, you think it gets worse than this? Look, the options for being an angel are few. I should know; I’ve been pretending to be one for years, it would seem.”
Kelly took his glass again and made circular patterns with the condensation dripping below.
Carrie stopped the motion by putting her hand on his, grasping gently.
“You’ll be alright: you with that perfect killer blond hair and steely eyes. I bet whatever you’re in for, it’ll all workout,” she said.
“I hope you’re right.”
The police moved in without much commotion and took Kelly into custody. Carrie’s bewilderment would not abate any time soon. She finished her drink before moving on to the one he’d left behind. “Sir? I’m going to go ahead and cash us out. I think it’d be best that I head on home.”
“You’re only nine-years-old, you can’t be Pretty Woman, for God’s sake,” Ellen told her daughter.
The lipstick ran from the top of Sarah’s lips and around the side of her nose, and a tear rolled down her cheek to meet it.
“I’m not pretty, mommy?”
Ellen sighed, and wiped the gauze of reality out of the scope of her eyes.
“Of course you’re pretty honey, but you can’t be Pretty Woman from the movie. She, well, she had a job, you know. And you don’t have a job. So yes, you can be pretty, but you can’t be Pretty Woman.”
“But Isaac will be over in an hour, and we’re going on a real date. I want a Pretty Woman date.
“I told you, you’re not old enough to go on any dates, you're certainly not recreating some movie.”
Ellen sat down on the couch and kicked her work shoes off as far as she could. With such little energy, they barely made it beyond the coffee table.
“You don’t want to go on dates, Sarah. Dates mean relationships, relationships need money, money requires jobs, and jobs require shoes. Go look in your closet at all of the shoes you don’t have to wear. You’ll love it.”
Sarah crossed the living room with purpose, making certain that her mother would have to look at her.
“While you’re in there, find something else to wear. That’s your formal dress. You only wear that one to weddings, and Lord knows we’ll probably be dragged to a slew of those in the spring. Wouldn’t want to disappoint any young lovers.”
“But mom,” Sarah kept on, “I want to be like you and daddy. You used to watch that movie all the time.”
Ellen snapped her head to establish a glare, but stopped short of laying into her only child.
“I know honey. Can’t I just have five minutes of peace? Maybe you can go bowling with Isaac this weekend.”
“Pretty Woman didn’t go bowling, and I’m going to be Pretty Woman!”
“Goddammit I told you no, and that’s enough. Go to your room, and I swear to God, if you don’t leave me alone, you won’t be watching Pretty Woman, or anything else, because you’ll be grounded.”
Sarah stormed off to her room with innocent fury. Her mother put her feet up on the coffee table and grabbed the remote to find something worth watching.
“Oh, Love Actually. Another gem. Almost as good as, what’s on Lifetime, yes, of course, Casablanca. At least that one’s realistic. Ends in heartache,” she said into the void that was the empty room. She turned the television off and the remote control found its way through the air, ending up much further than her shoes.
"The only good thing about a movie is that you can turn it off.”
As she rolled her head back, there was a crash, and again, her reprieve was short lived. The remote had crashed into an end table, and something heavy fell to the rug below.
She hated the term, “urn”, but hated, memory box even more. Either way, it was the object that had danced so poorly with gravity in her frustration. Her husband was now the latest victim of her ever-growing stress attack.
“No, no, no. Why can’t I…fuck.”
The urn remained sealed, so a full crisis was not present. Still, Ellen tore deep into her hair with her fingers, and clenched the eyes that couldn’t find a tear shut to the point of pain. Her head fell, only to be caught by the cushion of the couch, as she gripped the urn to her chest.
“You could have stayed, you know. I mean, fuck cancer. Who doesn’t beat cancer? Nobody dies of cancer in the movies!”
She sat up and let the mascara do as it pleased, another failed attempt at normalcy.
“You’d probably tell me that you loved me, but that, ‘You could consider being rational,’ in that sweet, but know-it-all voice of yours. I’d give anything to hear it now. Even though I’d be pissed that you were right. You’re totally right.”
When the tears finally came, they soothed almost as much as they hurt; For a while, Ellen just let them lead the way.
Sarah rolled up the dress that she was forbidden to wear, and threw it into her closet. Then, out of spite, she piled all of her shoes up on top of it. She didn’t want to hear it, but that’s when her mother appeared in the doorway.
“That’s not going to look good, come springtime,” Ellen said with a giggle.
“I don’t care!” Sarah replied.
“I know you’re mad. And I want to apologize. I shouldn’t have laid into you like that.”
“Pretty Woman deserves better.”
Ellen laughed, “Yes, you’re right. She totally does. I’m sorry Pretty Woman.”
“Do you not like movies?”
“Oh, honey. Of course I like movies. I’m just in a bad place. And I shouldn’t take it out on you. Or Pretty Woman.”
“She’s a nice lady.”
“And she’s tough.”
“Like you mama!”
Ellen pulled her daughter in tight, to make up for that fact that she was speechless.
“I love you, baby. And I love Pretty Woman. But life isn’t always like the movies. 'Happily ever after' makes us like them better.”
“It kind of makes up for when life’s stinky, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Well, I like you better than Pretty Woman, or any other movie, anyhow.”
“Because you’re real. And you love me. And even if it hurts, you’re always here for me. And you cut my crusts off, and you come look at me when you think I’m sleeping, but you don’t know that I’m not. And I watch you back.”